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I typically imagine fraud as largely a civil affair for which one defrauded party may sue and pursue civil remedies against the fraudulent one.

And obviously falsifying official documents typically issued by the state such as driver licenses or passports is probably criminal everywhere. But is it a crime to forge false documents to submit for example to a private letting agency or landlord, in order to feign compliance with their business's policies?

In the given example of a landlord, of course there are civil remedies like a dedicated ground in section 8 which is statutorily available to the landlord for them to restore the situation so as to be "made whole" (ie regain possession of their property).

But this is still civil, and not a criminal matter, and exemplarily thus, my question.

3 Answers 3

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Fraud in is defined within the Fraud Act 2006. The operative type of Fraud in this case is defined by Fraud Act 2006 section 2 (Fraud by False Representation).

This says:

Fraud by false representation
(1)A person is in breach of this section if he—
   (a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and
   (b)intends, by making the representation—
      (i)to make a gain for himself or another, or
      (ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
(2)A representation is false if—
   (a)it is untrue or misleading, and
   (b)the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue
      or misleading.
(3)“Representation” means any representation as to fact or law,
   including a representation as to the state of mind of—
   (a)the person making the representation, or
   (b)any other person.
(4)A representation may be express or implied.
(5)For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as
   made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any
   system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to
   communications (with or without human intervention).

Prima facie, yes, making any representation (in this case by way of a forged document or lie to the landlord) can be Fraud if it is dishonest, and was intended to make a gain for the person making the representation or a loss for another.

Let's suggest the potential potential lessee said "I earn 100k per year", but actually only earned 50k per year, and L said that in order to convince the landlord that L was more credit worthy than he actually was, that would (likely) be fraud.

However, there are a number of reasons why the behaviour described might not be caught.

Let us suggest a letting agency requires an unreasonable amount of information to let an apartment, requiring copious identification documents with a large number of arbitrary restrictions (sadly not unusual). The potential lessee (L) is able to provide all but one of these, but is unable to provide (e.g.) a second utility bill as the utilities were in the name of L's housemate. So L takes the PDF of a utility bill, invokes a PDF editor, and changes the name of his housemate to L's own name, thereby satisfying the agency's requirement. Has L committed fraud?

Re s(2), firstly, what is the representation? It might be argued that either the representation is simply that L is who he says he is (which is not a false representation), or that the a third party provided documentation shows that L says he is who he says he is (which is false). But in that case, a L is in fact who L says he is, it's unlikely L will cause loss to another (the letting agent or landlord), or a gain for himself, as the purpose of asking for the representation is presumably to establish that L is who he says he is. It might be argued in the alternative that even if L did make a gain or cause a loss, L did not intend that gain or loss, merely to satisfy the agency's requirements.

We'd also have to prove the representation was dishonest (s(1)(a)) in an R v Ghosh sense, meaning:

... a jury must first of all decide whether according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people what was done was dishonest ... If it was dishonest ... then the jury must consider whether the defendant himself must have realised that what he was doing was by those standards dishonest.

The first leg is self-explanatory; I'd suggest there is a good chance of it failing. Re the second leg, it might be argued that L believed he was avoiding pointless bureaucracy, rather than being dishonest (compared to constructing an instrument to prove he was someone else).

I note in passing that the second leg may have been over-ruled in Ivey v Genting Casinos though it's not obvious to me whether that is just for civil cases given criminal cases normally require mens rea.

Finally, the question was asked in the context of the United Kingdom. The Fraud Act 2006 applies in and . The law in is different.

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    For me, if a misrepresentation is not material such that a civil court would not automatically void a contract, a criminal fraud charge would probably not be appropriate (and almost certainly not in Canadian law, which requires either deprivation or actual risk or prejudice to economic interest for a fraud charge to stand).
    – xngtng
    Jul 23, 2022 at 23:37
32

All fraud is criminal

One of the types of fraud in the UK is “making a dishonest representation for your own advantage”.

Lying to a prospective landlord in order to secure a lease is fraud.

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    My reading of sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/magistrates-court/item/fraud is that the sentence is unlikely to be less than a fine of a week's salary. (As well as any restitution to the landlord.) Jul 22, 2022 at 6:46
  • Is it financially benefitting the tenant if they both intend and prove to always pay their rent on time in accordance with the lease but, say, forge a past lease because the landlords rigid procedures require one? They might not have been granted the tenancy if not for the would be fraud but they aren't paying any less than if they'd provided a real past lease and it arguably isn't material to the agreement. Furthermore it certainly isn't harming the landlords interests at all.
    – Timothy
    Jul 23, 2022 at 13:36
  • @Timothy Is it benefiting me as a driver if I both intend and prove to drive carefully in accordance with the law, but, say, forge my license, because the state won't recognize the driver's ed my dad provided to me personally?
    – Therac
    Jul 23, 2022 at 16:42
  • Perhaps but the requirement to have a state issued license is enshrined in law but the requirement for blah blah blah varies by how anal retentive and out of touch each landlord is. Again suggesting that it may perhaps be a mere civil better for the landlord to prove that the deception was material, that it harmed them, and thence to seek suitable remedies accordingly. So the question remains whether it is criminal or civil which seems that it may boil down to whether the statute had in mind zero-sum (such as financial) gains when referring to gains and losses, or if it means the words much
    – Timothy
    Jul 23, 2022 at 18:18
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    @ZOMVID-21 Other than driving without a licence is a crime in itself (lying during contract negotiation is not necessarily criminal, it does not even automatically void a contract), forgery is not the same offence as fraud (although an act can be both).
    – xngtng
    Jul 23, 2022 at 22:16
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This depends strongly on what the documents are. Yes, all fraud is criminal but not all falsified documents are fraud. If you told a friend that a certain person had sent you a birthday card, and when the friend insisted on seeing this card, you created a card yourself, if the purpose was to get money from the friend, yes, that would be fraud and criminal but if the purpose was just to impress the friend, while this would be lying and wrong, it would NOT be 'fraud' or 'criminal.

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    @Mindwin From that link: "it is an offence for a person to use an instrument which is, and which he knows or believes to be, false, with the intention of inducing somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice", and an instrument is defined therein as "any document, whether of a formal or informal character". I fail to see why a forged birthday card could not be considered a falsified document if used to mislead someone for financial gain. Jul 22, 2022 at 16:37
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    @Mindwin The answer "All fraud is criminal" isn't an answer, either, it's just a factual statement but it doesn't help the OP to know if their specific case IS fraud (and thus criminal) or not. You need to combine both answers to have a full answer--it is criminal if it is fraud, and here is how you know if it is fraud. Jul 22, 2022 at 19:28
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    @Mindwin are you drawing a distinction between "for financial gain" and "the purpose was to get money" I'm having a very difficult time following your critique of this answer, if you care to explain?
    – TCooper
    Jul 22, 2022 at 20:30
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    I believe the objection is that, if we are to be pedantic, the specific sentence containing a question (somewhat difficult to find) was strictly asking about forging documents in order to feign compliance with a company's policies. Under the assumption that this necessarily means for financial gain, the objection was raised that this answer provides additional context outside of the question's scope. I believe the assumption is flawed, however, and in any case, good answers often add to the context.
    – Corrodias
    Jul 22, 2022 at 23:51
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    Suppose that a certain member's club only allows the use of its facilities by former students of a certain university. And someone joins using a falsified enrollment document. It's not a financial gain as they will still pay for membership. Is this criminal?
    – Timothy
    Jul 23, 2022 at 13:41

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